Choosing a TV: What the Pros Look For

Control, viewability and connectivity rate high


The TV showroom at The Little Guys, Mokena IL

What’s really important when buying a new TV? Do you focus on great black levels, brightness, resolution? Is picture the most important factor when selecting a TV? What about cosmetic design? And let’s not forget about the abundance of online features and smart interaction tweaks that are showing up on new TVs.

The thing is, when selecting a new TV, sometimes its one little thing that helps you make the decision to spend your money.

When you’re working with a CE Pro who is helping you make those decisions, the person installing and integrating your system may have features in mind that you wouldn’t normally be thinking about.

I asked some home theater pros to share their thoughts on what they look for, besides picture quality, in a television.

First I turned to Joel Silver, founder of the Imaging Science Foundation. He’s one of the people responsible for rising people’s awareness of professional TV calibration. Silver noted that the ability to calibrate a TV properly is critical to getting the best picture out of it, which means that the TV needs to have the proper features available for a trained technician. These days finding a calibration-friendly TV is pretty easy, especially when you’re looking among the top lines from the dominate manufacturers. True discrete codes for inputs and on/off is also important when programming a control system or universal remote. In addition, he looks for TVs that allow the calibrator to lock in the settings so the user can’t accidentally change something vital.

Here’s what some other CE Pros shared:

“Actually, ‘brightest image’ is not highest on our list of attributes. Dynamic range is more important to us, which is ‘contrast’ in layman’s terms. We try to determine if viewers have a narrow viewing cone–looking straight ahead at the TV, or do they have casual, relaxed room layout.

The set that wins the ‘drag race’ in the showroom doesn’t always equate well to the experience in the home environment. Bright images, particularly from edge-lit LED sets can be like staring at a lamp shade for a couple of hours in a darkened room. With plasma, for example, the only light you see is actual content, so there is no wasted light. Fatigue is less when watching for an extended period of time. Backlit LEDs with local dimming seem to do a good job as well. As far as ‘features’ are concerned, discrete on/off is pretty important, along with a good set of picture adjustment controls. Outside of that, the usual palette of networking features will suffice.”
John Selby
Stereo One, Inc.

“It depends on what we are doing with it. For instance if I am doing an automation system, I will either sell the clients (or suggest they buy) a certain brand that I know has solid drivers and has discrete on/off commands etc.And with AppleTV out there for $99 the entire smart TV thing is a moot point to me. I’d rather a no nonsense all picture quality display with one HDMI these days for less money because those online features in your actual TV aren’t needed.”
David Huse
Theater Advice L.L.C.

Like the dealers and installers above, Dave Wexler of the The Little Guys, rates control capabilities high on his list of must-have features. An RS-232 connection is superior to IR. He also looks for discrete input control so the user doesn’t have to scroll through a list of inputs to get to the correct one.

He also looks for TVs with a quality anti-glare coating or similar feature to reject room light. Unless the TV is going into a dark media room, there will probably be room light bouncing around from windows or lamps. That light can significantly impact a picture in a normal room.
David Wexler
The Little Guys
Mokena IL


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